University of Saskatchewan and affiliated centres received almost $6 million from the Agriculture Development Fund

University of Saskatchewan Facebook photo. Students walk to class on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon.

Daily Herald Staff

Various research departments at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) have received nearly $6 million in funding from the Agriculture Development Fund (ADF).

The ADF funds will support research projects in livestock management, animal vaccination and disease prevention, behavioural analysis, genomic development of feed, and more.

“The cutting-edge research conducted at USask, VIDO and our affiliated centres is changing the way the world approaches agriculture,” said USask’s Vice-President Research Dr. Baljit Singh in a press release. “Our skilled and accomplished researchers continue to create formidable change; exploring new techniques and technologies so we can continue to be what the world needs in our critical agricultural industry.”

Nineteen USask led and four VIDO led projects received ADF funding.  USask’s Prairie Swine Centre (PSC) received funding for two additional projects.

Industry co-funders for this round of ADF funding include, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, the Saskatchewan Forage Seed Development Commission, Saskatchewan Pulse Grower’s, and the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission.

Also, a USask researcher hopes to discover a genomic connection for what makes an efficient cow.

Asai-Coakwell received $147,992 for this project plus co-funding from the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

“That end goal, really, is if we can identify the different genomic variations in these cattle that are associated with that trait, you can eventually select for that trait,” said Asai-Coakwell in a press release. “That would be ideal for our cattle industry.”

An efficient animal is traditionally measured as one that reaches peak growth with the least required supplementation, whether it be food or other inputs.  For a mature beef cow, the focus is not on growth, but the cow’s ability to carry and wean a healthy calf.

“If we can identify portions of the genome involved, then you can start to breed for a more efficient cow, and at least you can select for the best cow’s genome-wise,” she said. “The aim is to identify genes. We do want to associate areas of the genome (with efficient cows), and those can give us clues to discover which genes are involved.”

The benefits of raising more efficient or productive cows extend to all levels of the farming process. More efficient cows mean less cost and less environmental impact as the industry moves more towards increased sustainable agriculture.

A new project for preventing disease in calves is receiving $157,672 from ADF.

The goal is to help maintain the health of the calves from birth to the feedlot stage.

“That transition from cow-calf to feedlot is where we really see a large prevalence of respiratory disease,” USask Western College of Veterinary Medicine researcher Nathan Erickson said in a press release. “There’s a lot of different stresses that precipitate respiratory disease … Our goal is to figure out the best (vaccination) priming and boosting of these animals to have robust immunity all the way out to that high-risk phase.”  

The project continues to research vaccine protocols in which calves receive a vaccine delivered nasally at birth, then a booster later on.  Injection vaccines are not as effective due to maternal antibodies that interfere with the vaccine response.

Erickson said this disease runs rampant among feeder calves and their hope is to provide the most accurate information for veterinarians and producers.